Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sermon -- Pentecost (May 19, 2013)

JOHN 15:26-27

Note: This sermon was preached on the day
when three teens observed the Rite of Confirmation.

In the name + of Jesus.

     In their studies for their confirmation, these three catechumens learned the 3rd petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  They also memorized Luther’s explanation of the Lord’s Prayer.  It often happens when memory work is assigned, teens like to request, “Can’t I just tell you what I think it means?”  As noble as that sounds, it is not wise.  When you pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” can you say you actually know what God’s will is? 
     If someone asks you want God wants, your answer had better not begin with the words, “I think….”  If you tell me what you think God’s will is, you are probably not telling me God’s will at all.  You are telling me what you would like it to be.  Or you are telling me what you think and you are assuming that your will is God’s will.  This is not only dangerous; it is arrogant, and it is idolatry.  Unless you are actually repeating what God has said, claiming to speak for God is blasphemy.  God must be the one to tell you what he wills and what he warns against.  God speaks for himself, and we dare not confuse our convictions with God’s word.
     So, how can you know what God’s will is?  How can you know what God desires and what God condemns?  You don’t have to guess.  God has revealed these things to us through his Holy Spirit.  Only the Spirit of God reveals the will of God.
     Now a follow-up question: How do you know what message is from the Holy Spirit and which message is from a different or demonic spirit?  Once again, sinners tend to resort to their feelings.  Some look for signs to confirm their desires—and by George, they always manage to find their signs.  It is a dangerous and deadly deception for you to look within yourself for divine guidance.  For, you are not divine.  And you can be sure that the Lord will never grant you permission to do what he condemns, no matter how many signs are telling you that it is okay to do so.  Our minds and our hearts are corrupt and self-serving.  That is why God does not speak to us through our feelings or our opinions. 
     The Spirit of God reveals the will of God.  Jesus had told his apostles that he would send the Helper, the Spirit of God, to show them the things of God.  The Holy Spirit would be given to the apostles and bear witness to Jesus and all of his words.  Jesus had not written these things down.  That was entrusted to the apostles.  Jesus told them so: “You…will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:27)  Through the apostles, the Holy Spirit would proclaim and record the words and works of Jesus.  In this way, we don’t have to guess what Jesus would want or do.  We have a written record.  We have God’s own word.  In the Bible, God speaks for himself.  There, the Spirit of God reveals the will of God.
     God tells us what he desires and demands.  He tells us what he commends and what he condemns in many aspects of life.  He tells us what is pure in sex and marriage and what is a perversion of them.  He tells us what parents owe their children and what children owe their parents.  He praises the one who loves his neighbor and helps him in his need, and he pounces on the one who would use his neighbor and scheme to swindle him out of his time, money, and energy.   He commands us to regard his word as holy (because it is!) and to adhere to all of it (because everything God says matters!).  And he condemns us if we would distort or discard any of it in order to make God conform to our liking.  Where God has not spoken, you are free to do as you please.  God does not care what color you paint your bedroom, how you prepare your eggs, or who your favorite team is.  But when the Spirit of God reveals the will of God, it is not open for debate.  The word of the Lord stands, even if it stands against you.  And if it does stand against you, if it does reveal that you are listening to a different spirit, repent.  For it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
     On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit upon the apostles.  He gave them the Divine Helper who helped them remember every word Jesus had spoken, every promise Jesus had fulfilled, and every deed Jesus had done.  Jesus sent his Spirit to guide them in all truth.  The Spirit of God revealed the will of God to them.  Jesus had said, “The Spirit of truth… will bear witness about me.  And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)  The Holy Spirit granted these apostles the courage and the ability to speak to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost.  Crowds who had gathered from around the world with their divided languages heard the apostles declare the wonders and the will of God in their own native languages.  Through these apostles, the Spirit of God revealed the will of God.
     What, then, is that will?  Peter declared it in his second epistle: The Lord is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)  Peter declared it in his first epistle: “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)  And he proclaimed it to the crowds at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)  It is God’s will that you would be saved from your sin—from your blasphemy which presumes that your opinions are God’s opinions, from your idolatry which puts your desires above God’s word, and from your unclean spirit which does not want to listen to God to begin with. 
     The Spirit of God reveals the will of God, and he bears witness to all Jesus has done for you.  For it was God’s will to save you.  Therefore, God came to redeem you.  He became flesh to deliver you.  Jesus submitted himself to all of God’s word.  He has done the will of God by doing all that is commanded of man.  In doing this, he has won God’s favor.  But to save you, Jesus did not bask in God’s favor.  Instead, he absorbed the curse of sinners.  It was God’s will to crush Jesus, to cause him to suffer, and to make his life a sin offering for the world.  First, this reveals that God has no tolerance for sin and no mercy for sinners.  Jesus died an excruciating death under the divine curse of an Almighty God.
     But Jesus’ sufferings and death also reveal the height and depth of God’s love for you—that Jesus would die mercilessly so that you would be shown mercy; that Jesus would take all your sin so that you would be found blameless before God; that Jesus would pay the price for every presumptuous word you would utter and for every time you followed your self-indulgent feelings over God’s word.  Jesus took God’s curse for these so that God could call you his saints.  Jesus gave himself into death so that you would have eternal life.  This is God’s will.  It has been fulfilled by Jesus.  It has been revealed by the Holy Spirit.  It has been proclaimed by the apostles.  It is still preached by God’s ministers.  And it has been given to you.

     Today, three teens will be vowing to be faithful to these Spirit-given teachings for the rest of their lives.  In some respect, they will be swearing to do the impossible.  They cannot keep themselves faithful anymore than you can keep yourself from sinning.  It is God the Holy Spirit who must give them life and strength and conviction.  It is the Holy Spirit who confirms us in the faith.  It is the Spirit of God who conforms our minds and hears to the will of God.  And the Spirit of God only does this in his word and sacrament.  This is where he reveals the will of God.  This is where he pours out the salvation of Jesus Christ.
     This is what you need.  This is what all Christians need.  It is the only hope we have, but it is the only hope which saves.  Remember: You may struggle in your faithfulness to God, but God is always faithful to you.  The Spirit of God reveals the will of God, and he shows you that your God is a gracious Savior who desires your salvation.  And that is why we pray, “Thy will be done.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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